A Yummy Day Trip to Wine Country
My boyfriend is the type who typically isn't big on suggesting things to do but, realizing he was staring at not being home on the weekends until pretty much April, he announced last Friday evening he wanted to do something on Saturday. I wasn't feeling like going to Monterey Bay Aquarium as we'd done that for our last day trip, so then he suggested Napa. I agreed. We hadn't been in a while and hadn't really done a full day there properly in a while.
Luckily, my friend Bela of the blog "Life with Bela" had recently posted about her pet-friendly staycation in Sonoma and her post (which you should check out as 1: her blog is amazing and 2: her pug Lola is adooooorable) largely inspired my plans for the day.
The plan was thus: visit a winery for a tasting, get some lunch, putz about, dinner then head back home to South Bay.
The Wine Tasting: Larson Family Winery
Larson Family Winery was doing a wine and truffles pairing that weekend in the spirit of Valentine's Day. Inside tastings are typically $15, but they were seating everyone outside that day. For the box of truffles it was an extra $10. All considered, $15/per person and then adding $10 for a 5-flight tasting is quite a nice deal for Napa & Sonoma.
They've been family-owned and operated for some time, and there are quite a few labs running about. Three of the older ones are twelve, and the younger pups are around 1-2 years old, I believe. Pete, the old black lab, had sauntered out for a bit to lounge in a sunspot and get some nice pettings in from guests. Isn't that the life?
Their property is situated quite nicely on a lot of acreage facing the hills, and you can reserve a picnic table for two hours and bring your own picnic. Given the prolific amount of great delis and treats you can take to go in the area, this is quite a nice feature and definitely something to take advantage of for a date or fun outing with friends. They also some cozy patio sofa areas for members.
It's a very cute area and the interior (which I failed to take a photo of) is cozy as well. They offer fireside tastings, which sounds utterly charming for fall and winter. Lucky for us, the weather in early February has been pretty warm in the high 60s/low 70s here, and with Sonoma/Napa typically being warmer than South Bay the weather that day was phenomenal and it was too early for bees. More on that in a bit.
The wine tasting consisted of five wines paired with truffles, three whites and two reds. The local chocolatier they were working with collaborated with them on the pairings, and to quite a lot of tasty success, I must say. Our Larson sommelier/cupbearer (I think his name was Jake) was really helpful in giving the low down on each wine and a super cool guy. Very informative and candid about his faves.
The pairings went as thus:
Larson Brut - triple berry cream dark chocolate truffle
Larson Pinot Grigio - salted caramel truffle
Larson Chardonnay - lemon cream dark chocolate truffle
Larson Merlot - hazelnut milk chocolate bark
Larson Three Lab Cab- cabernet cream chocolate truffle & dark chocolate cherry tart truffle
We ended up picking up a bottle of the Brut (which they are legally not allowed to call a champagne) and a bottle of Three Lab Cab. I normally aren't into whites, but their Brut was crisp and refreshing. I wasn't big on the Pinot Grigio, but I wouldn't kick the Chardonnay out of bed. The Merlot was good but the Three Lab Cab was definitely my jam. That being said, every single truffle was AMAZING.
Recreating a Roman holiday at lunch
Sated with wine, it was time to eat and so we headed thirty minutes over to Yountville to get lunch at Redd Wood, which specializes in pizza and pasta. I noticed they had bucatini amatriciana and cacio e pepe on the menu, and thus I was sold. Those two pasta dishes are the ones Mike and I ate quite frequently in Rome (they're both extremely local Roman dishes) and what a perfect way to hearken back to that trip.
But first up, arancini aka deep fried risotto balls. These were a spin on the classic with the risotto being an English pea and cheese risotto so the peas were pureed in. I admittedly do not like solid peas in my risotto but this was a delicious alternative. It was served in a creamy burrata sauce that was subtle but extremely good. Loved these.
As for the star of the lunch show?
Did. Not. Disappoint.
At first glance, this deceptively looks like a small serving of pasta but these bowls are actually really big so it's just the right amount. My bucatini was perfect, made with thick pieces of guanciale and from the first bite I felt transported back to the small trattoria on a Trastevere side street where I first enjoyed this dish. The authenticity here was on point.
Mike's cacio e pepe was equally delicious, though just a touch milder in a slightly less saltier way than what we had in Rome, but that largely comes down the pecorino cheese used which will always taste a little different depending on region. Cacio e pepe is one of those dishes that's simple in ingredients (it's pretty much pasta, pecorino, pepper/salt, pasta water) but can be so tricky to make as it really comes down to execution. Red Wood's execution is wonderful.
When in Yountville
One cannot pass through Yountville without stopping at Bouchon Bakery at some point. Part of the Thomas Keller Holy Napa Trinity, Bouchon boasts lines for a good reason and it's not just for the satisfy that tourist check box. Their baked goods are ridiculously delicious and well worth standing in line for.
We may have gotten overzealous in our order too but hey, it was super delicious for what was intended to just be a coffee stop. I ordered a pasty-wrapped beef bouguinon to go for lunch the next day and we also ordered their chocolate bouchons, monkey bread, a cheese danish, a salted caramel rice krispy treat and a baguette. And I did get my coffee, which was Equator brand.
Mike did the heavy lifting of eating our boulangerie spoils that weekend, but the chocolate pastries and the baguette were out of this world, and the piece of monkey bread I tried was flaky and buttery in the best way possible. It's obvious to see why this bakery is such a hit.
Channeling French bistro feels
Dinner was at the girl and the fig, a lovely French bistro-inspired cafe in Sonoma right off the town's main square. I'm really into steak frites and this did not disappoint. I don't eat a lot in one sitting, so a 6 oz cut of steak on a pile of shoestring fries is perfect for me. Their aioli was out of this world and the garlic butter truly highlighted an already excellently prepared steak.
The fries were delish, but I only ended up eating half of them. Worry not, I made sure to get all that aioli goodness though! This was such a good dish and I really enjoy the restaurant's cozy nature.
But I cannot speak of this place without the showstopper: the salted fig caramel and chocolate trifle. You guys. You guys. I told Mike that I was sorry because now I have to change my relationship status to "In a Relationship" with this dessert. It is so so good.
I actually normally don't even like figs, but made into a salted caramel they totally work. The light merengue, the salty sweet caramel and the rich chocolate all pair together for a sensational flavor that even my dark chocolate-hating man could agree was really good.
Next time I want to try the fig & port ice cream in a cookie cup. If the trifle is this good I have high hopes for everything else.
This was such a lovely day trip, and one I sorely needed with a lot of change happening in my personal life and career and it really highlighted the fact that I need to do more of these local NorCal trips.
If you'll be in the Sonoma area for a visit, please do check out some of these places. You won't be disappointed.